Someone recently left a comment asking if I would please give an update on my homeless friend, Dexter. First of all, I am admittedly too lazy right now to go back and find out your name, but to you who asked, thank you. I care deeply for Dexter; I am honored that you would care for him as well; and I believe you sparked a small miracle.
I hadn't seen Dexter since the fall. I saw him quite a bit last summer, but then he started showing up less and less. He told me he couldn't handle my neighborhood because, "too many rich ladies stop and try to take care of me." I love that answer. It still makes me smile; it reminds me that at our core, we humans are still kind and empathetic and not nearly as oblivious and selfish as we sometimes claim to be.
Anyways, early fall, Dexter went away and didn't come back. For weeks I drove the parking lots looking for him. And when I hopped on the tour bus for our two month tour, I asked my friends Becca and Sara to keep an eye out for him. Sara called a few times, thinking she had spotted him, but as she described the man, I knew it wasn't my Dexter. In November I began searching for him. Calling homeless shelters. Trying to track down someone at the dialysis clinic that could give me information on him. No one could help me because it broke confidentiality rules. And I understood that. Still- I just needed to know if he had died.
December began a tumultuous soul-searching time for Ryan and I. Dexter went to the background- and though my eyes were always scanning for him- I sort of gave up. In my heart, I knew I needed to let go. I tried calling around to the Salvation Army shelters a few more times in the late spring and then called it quits.
You, blog-friend-commenter, brought him back to my mind. As soon as I read his name, my heart started burning again. I wanted so badly to find him. Mind you- not because I can fix any of his problems- I can't- but because I told him he was my friend and I meant it.
I can't fix him, but I can sit with him in the parking lot and let him watch Annie smile and laugh and get him food and be good company. I thought about Dexter all day after reading your inquiry. (I suppose maybe my soul was praying for an encounter though I was not even aware that I was in a state of prayer.) And then, that afternoon when I least expected it (because I was tired and I had a million things to do and I had a fussy Annie in the back seat)...
there he was, in the chick-fil-a parking lot.
The same place I met him the very first day. There he was. This time, not slouched over like the many times before, but sitting up a bit more straight in his chair. Sipping on water. Looking more like life than death.
I got Annie and Dexter some food and made my way back to him. I did not realize, until I looked into his eyes, how worried I had been for him. And then it came spewing out.
"DEXTER!!! Where have you been? You can't just leave like that and not tell me. I have been searching for you for nearly a year. I thought you were dead. You can't just do that. You can't just disappear like that and not call me. I'm really mad at you."
By this time I've got my arms around him in a bear hug, tears running down my face and he's just laughing.
"It's not funny. I gave you my number for a reason. If you are going to disappear for 9 months you have to tell me. I thought you were freaking dead. I've been calling the shelters and clinics trying to track you down."
He stopped me with his gentle voice, "How's Annie?"
My heart caught in my throat.
He remembered her name.
The first few times we met, he was always very ill. I would go to him and shake him, calling his name, trying to make sure he was alive. I would always have to reintroduce myself. "Dexter, this is Jenny. Hey. How are you feeling? Dexter? Can you hear me? Can I get you something? Have you taken your medicine?" He was always more dead than alive.
This time he knew my name. He knew Annie's name. And maybe that should not be a moment of immense joy- excited that a really dirty, sick, homeless man remembers my daughter's name and wants to see her- but I pulled her out of that car and brought her right up next to him like he was Santa Clause and she was the best kid in the world.
Dexter looks better than ever. I don't know the in's and out's of his illness, but I know that he cannot be on the transplant list because his blood work never stabilizes enough for him to qualify. One of his blood counts is always too low. I suspect being a dirty, sick, homeless man has something to do with it too. So he does dialysis twice a week. He will always be on dialysis. He sleeps at the Dallas Salvation Army. And he takes the bus up to MacArthur in North Irving to get away from the "thugs" in the downtown area.
I left him with my cell phone number like I do every time and I told him, "Call me. If you are in the hospital. If you are sick. If you need a place to sleep. Call. Please. We're here. And don't you dare go missing for nine months again making me think you're dead- I will kick your butt- I don't care how sick you are!"
He always says, "Your husband is gonna kill you," when I hand him my number. Like he knows what most wise husbands and dads would say to their wife or little girl who is hugging the scary looking man in the parking lot. But- I like that he says that. He knows the truth. He knows his plot. He is not dumb. Not drunk. Not stupid. Not dangerous.
He is sick.
He lost his job. His health. His family. His ability to crawl out of the hole of poverty. But he did not lose his humanity. And he still worries that I am going to get in trouble with Ryan for associating myself with a dirty, sick, homeless man. He is still a man- chivalrous in a way- concerned that I am going to get myself in trouble and wanting to protect me from that.
He feels. He hears. He knows.
I worry I am not doing enough; others worry I am doing too much.
At the end of the day though, I am just doing what I can do. It's not life-saving. It's not huge. It's not getting him off the streets and into a home where he can be cared for- that's what I wish I could do. But I'm not doing nothing. And I will forever be an advocate for that.
We can all do something. And little somethings add up...
I know that for sure... because Dexter remembers Annie's name; and she makes a man smile who I once thought was dead.
little somethings. they really do add up.
To all the IBC members who read this blog, can I just say how proud I was that day in the chick-fil-a parking lot? It was right after Panda Mania vacation bible school let out, and during the course of my visit with Dexter, four different mini-vans of green t-shirt, Panda Lovin', moms drove up to offer him food or help. He asked me, "What's with all the green shirt ladies around here, they won't stop bringing me food..." He was being attacked by Irving Bible Church pandamaniacs and it made my heart happy. I am honored to be in a church community filled with people who are living missionaly.